World Breastfeeding Week in Canada runs from October 1-7. All of us play an important role in supporting families to breastfeed. There are many things we can do as family, friends, co-workers, health care workers and community members to support breastfeeding:
- Encourage breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact within the first hour of birth. This helps with the first breastfeed. It also reinforces the importance of skin-to-skin contact in the coming days and weeks.
- Support parents to learn their baby’s language. We call this language ‘cues’ and it’s essentially how babies ‘talk’ to their parents. For example, babies turn their cheek to their parent to show they are hungry. This is called a rooting reflex. Encourage new parents to be patient with themselves. Appreciate that learning a baby’s cues takes time – just like learning any new skill or job!
- Acknowledge that new babies feed often! They feed a minimum of eight times in 24 hours. Babies need to learn how to coordinate their body to feed, breathe, suck and swallow. Their tummies are small and they empty fast. This means they need to eat often. Babies grow quickly in the first three to four months. They must keep their tummies full to help them grow.
- Recognize that breastfeeding is comforting for babies. It is more than just about meeting the baby’s nutritional needs. The breast is a safe place for babies because they hear the noises they heard for nine months in the womb. Don’t be alarmed by how often babies want to be with their parent, especially at the breast.
- Support a breastfeeding parent by providing them with water and snacks. They may not notice they are hungry or thirsty until they sit down to feed. Offer to provide meals or snacks with a focus on easy, quick and nutritious options, like fruits and vegetables, cheese and crackers, nuts and homemade muffins.
- Believe in a family’s ability to breastfeed and encourage them to seek support when necessary. Public health nurses support families with breastfeeding issues or challenges. Some communities also have breastfeeding support groups. Ask your local public health nurse for more information about breastfeeding and parenting resources in your community.
Southern Health-Santé Sud promotes and protects breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is welcome at all Southern Health-Santé Sud sites. We are also happy to accommodate requests for a private space for parents to feed their baby.